Six countries in six weeks

My main mode of transportation across Germany.
Credit: 
Anastasiya Boika

When people ask me why I enjoy travelling so much, I explain my love of globe-trotting as a state of mind rather than a need to place another pin on a world map. 

This past summer, what started off as a couple weeks of research in Minsk and St Petersburg turned into a six week adventure with stops in Iceland, England and Germany.

The first leg of my six-destination journey was a 48-hour layover in Reykjavik, Iceland. While time constraints didn’t allow me to gallivant through the infamous fjords, hot springs and the blustery north, I was able to explore a nearby island, walk most of the small capital city and visit the Blue Lagoon. 

The second stop in my trip involved traversing the UK by train, from London to Edinburgh, spending a week in the beautiful Scottish city where I had lived for nine months during an undergraduate exchange. 

Although I was hounded by time constraints —- a common thread throughout my trip — a three-hour walk from downtown Edinburgh, through Holyrood Park, to Portobello Beach allowed for a glimpse of the unmissable aspects of the land of plaid, ranging from effervescent greenery to glossy lakes.

Instead of indulging in fish and chips, I took advice from a few locals and tried out pancakes from a Brazilian food stand by Meadows Park. While pausing for a meal, the owner of the stand handed my friends and I an array of musical instruments to play. Together, we proceeded to rattle, hit and shake them to produce a wide variety of strange and cacophonous sounds, eliciting mixed reactions from passers-by. 

Following my brief jaunt in the UK, I flew to Hamburg, an ex-port city located in North-Western Germany which brags of more canals than Amsterdam and Venice combined. 

In Germany, I had my most memorable transportation, as my friend, who was acting as an all-in-one chauffeur, tour guide and confidant, picked me up to continue the venture east on a shiny motorcycle. 

After reading Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, I could finally agree with the author. There’s a clear difference between watching the world pass by through the television screen of a car window and viewing it from the back of a motorcycle. Nothing compares to having your hair blow in the wind racing at 130 kilometres an hour on the Autobahn with nothing around you but the road and the whirring of the engine.  

After spending a few days in transit, we reached Berlin.  Our arrival was delayed by over three hours due to the untimely discovery of an unexploded World War II bomb in the outskirts of the city, and the ensuing evacuation of the surrounding area. 

A few beautiful days in Berlin, and a last goodbye to both the city, my travel companion and his motorcycle had me on a flight to stop four of my backpacking tour — Minsk, Belarus. 

Both my time in Petersburg and Minsk was spent split between seeing family and doing research. The need to access primary sources in Russia and Belarus for my graduate studies had been my primary reason for leaving Canada in the first place. 

After staying up till the wee hours of the morning to see bridges being raised in Petersburg, cramming hundreds of years of history into five days and gallivanting across the city’s peripheries, I returned to Minsk. 

There, I was fed incredible amounts of food, spent inordinate amounts of time at the National Library of Belarus and visited multiple cottages in and around Minsk. Following this whirlwind of activity, I was begrudgingly placed on a flight back to London where I was to spend the final week of my European tour. 

London was a combination of figuring out the elaborate subway system, dodging tourists left, right and centre and trying to get a feel for the city. Following the advice of a local friend, I visited the artsy Brick Lane and eclectic Camden Town disco. 

Tourists battling for boats in Oxford, England.

Over the weekend, my friend and I decided to hop on a bus and pay a visit to the mythical Oxford. While there, we continued to be overwhelmed by tourists, failed to pass off as students to gain entry to one of the colleges and had the largest cups of coffee I’ve ever encountered. 

All of this was topped off by the amusement of watching a typical Oxford pastime in which people traverse the nearby waterways in Italian-like gondolas, inevitably toppling each other due to sheer lack of space and experience. 

When it finally came time for me to go, my travels provided me with one final adventure as I spent the night in a freezing Reykjavik airport, bonding with fellow travelers over lack of heating and our stories of summer travels. 

As nostalgia began to set in, I was nevertheless happy to strike out for home, considering I had long since run out of clean clothes, the ability to distinguish between time zones and the use of electronic devices, as I’d broken my converter during my first stint in the UK. 

While I’m sure I could come up with an incredibly cliché take away from my ventures, I’m content in the fact that I returned with more stories than I’d left with — coupled with an inadvertent need to purchase a motorcycle. 

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